Because the patient is an integral member of the surgical team, patient education is essential to the
delivery of high-value, safe surgical care. Patient education and the activation of their support systems
can improve treatment compliance, decrease complications, and enhance patient-reported outcomes
and experience. Patients should possess the requisite
knowledge and skills to contribute effectively to their
care. The American Board of Medical Specialties and
the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education have emphasized the critically important role
of patients within the health care team. 1
The ACS supports the recommendations of the
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and
Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division (formerly
known as the Institute of Medicine) underscoring
patient rights and responsibilities to fully participate
in their care. 2, 3 Patients should be educated to make
informed decisions with a clear understanding of surgical implications. Patients should also be trained to
actively participate in perioperative care, when possible. Patient education materials should be based on
contemporary principles of evidence-based medicine
tailored to the individual patient’s needs with a particular focus on health literacy.
The ACS supports the following actions:
•Assessing the individual health care needs of each
patient with respect to patient culture, gender, age,
and health literacy.
•Employing patient-centered decision support tools at
the point-of-care to aid understanding of perioperative
•Applying appropriate methods to ensure patient involvement and confirm patient comprehension during the
patient education process.
•Providing durable educational materials to the patient
and support team. Patient education materials should
detail pre-, peri-, and postoperative expectations to optimally support convalescing patients.
•Effectively discharging patients with the education,
skills, and clinical information that support safe care
transitions. As noted in the ACS Statements on Principles,
“The surgeon will ensure appropriate continuity of care
of the surgical patient.” 4
•Improving access to accurate patient education
information offered by the ACS and other professional organizations.
•Multi-organization collaborations to optimize patient
access to validated education resources.
•Promoting and critically evaluating the science,
practice, and certification of successful patient education programs. ♦
1. American Board of Medical Specialties. A trusted credential:
Based on core competencies. Available at: www.abms.org/
board-certification/a-trusted-credential/based-on-core-competencies/. Accessed April 12, 2016.
2. Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. Institute
of Medicine. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System
for the 21st Century. Available at: www.nap.edu/openbook.
php?isbn=0309072808. Accessed April 12, 2016.
3. Institute of Medicine. Best care at lower cost: The path to
continuously learning health care in America. Available at:
Accessed April 12, 2016.
4. American College of Surgeons. Statements on Principles:
Continuity of Care. Available at: facs.org/about-acs/
statements/stonprin/. Accessed April 12, 2016.
Statement on principles of patient education
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Patient Education Committee has revised the ACS “Statement
on principles of patient education”—originally published in the August 2006 issue of the Bulletin—
to increase the emphasis on patient education and engagement in the delivery of safe surgical
care. The ACS Board of Regents reviewed and approved the revision at its February meeting.